Friday, April 27, 2007

Joe Must Go

It's about time for the Yankees to thank Joe Torre for the memories and let him spend the rest of his summers eating Stella Doro breadsticks and working on his bocce game. I greatly appreciate the 4 Championships and 11 consecutive postseason appearances under his watch. Honestly, I do. Yes he has had the most talented team over that stretch, but I have never bought the argument that anybody could have managed those teams to 4 World Series Championships. I believe that for the most part, he has done an excellent job at his most important job, insulating his players from the added pressure that comes from the New York media and the most demanding owner in professional sports. So it is with some measure of melancholy that I must call for his firing.

Do not mistake me for one of those dunderheads that think the sky is falling, because of the Yankees' 8-12 start. I am fully aware that the injuries to their two best pitchers, an uncharacteristically poor start by Mariano Rivera, and some plain old bad luck are the major culprits. However, Signore Torre has been making some seriously daffy managerial decisions this season. Batting Melky Cabrera in the lead-off spot in a lineup with 6 All-Star caliber players is never an acceptable decision. Having Doug Mientkiewicz, a bad hitter off to a particularly bad start, bat second on this team is equally mindless.

Due to poor pitching performances from the starting rotation, the bullpen is being run into the ground. Proctor and Vizcaino should already be booking their late July flights to Birmingham to visit Dr. James Andrews. Yet somehow Joe Torre has not found much work for the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the sport. Granted an Italian has not been in this tough a spot since Bowser kidnapped Princess Toadstool, but you have to get Mariano Rivera more innings than situational lefty Mike Myers.

Joe Torre's bullpen management has gotten progressively worse over the years. For some reason Torre, like most managers, is completely married to the notion that his best bullpen option is only to be used with a 1 to 3 run lead in the ninth inning. It has still never been explained to my liking why preserving a lead is so much more important than maintaining a tie. My first notion that Torre was slipping as a manager came in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series. Inexplicably, he let the best postseason pitcher of all time rot in the bullpen IN A 12 INNING GAME, while he paraded failed starters (at the time) Jose Contreras and Jeff Weaver. Torre was holding him in reserve for a save opportunity would never come. Predictably, Weaver gave up a homer and the Marlins tied the series at 2-2. The decision to not pitch Rivera in that game might well have cost the Yankees another championship. Why would one value preserving a hypothetical future lead more important than maintaining a very real tie?

Torre's rep as a fine clubhouse manager has taken some hits recently as well. Allowing Tom Verducci the access to write that A-Rod smear piece that brought Rodriguez even more negative attention, was a stroke of pure idiocy. Embarrassing him further by batting the future inner-circle Hall of Famer could well have earned Torre his walking papers after last season. At that point, I felt it was time for some new blood in the manager position.

Let us not allow sentimentality to prevent us from fielding our best team. The manager's chair is not meant to be a Supreme Court appointment. I don't want to wait for Joe Torre to die or step down, before we move on.

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